CROWN POINT | Lake County commissioners again refused to reopen their purse strings Wednesday to a consultant they already have paid nearly $1 million to bring the county jail up to federal standards.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich made his second request in two months Wednesday for commissioners to authorize more than $300,000 to pay Kenneth Ray in 2014 to continue overseeing compliance with a U.S. Department of Justice mandate to improve health care and sanitation in the lockup.
The sheriff said the county committed years ago to hiring Ray, owner of RJS Justice Services LLC, of Ashland, Ky. The county has given Ray's firm more than $939,000 since 2011, according to county records.
Buncich said the jail has improved under his watch, but more is needed.
"Lake County will not move forward if we don't have him (Ray)," the sheriff said.
Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, responded, "Look at his (proposed) contract. The amount is excessive."
Scheub said Ray wants to be paid for medical and mental health services for inmates and improvements in the jail's sanitation. The county already is paying $5.5 million to doctors, nurses and mental health specialists and other consultants who work directly on those issues.
The sheriff warned that if commissioners refuse to employ Ray, "You may find the court appoints a federal monitor, and that would be much more costly." The jail was under a monitor for more than a decade until 1997 because of earlier health care deficiencies.
In other business, commissioners hired Crown Point Sgt. Jack Allendorf as deputy director of Lake County's consolidated E-911 communications service at a salary of $75,000.
He will assist Lake County in merging its 17 existing municipal and county police and fire E-911 systems into a single countywide network. Allendorf is a 25-year veteran of the Crown Point police force.
Commissioners also awarded $808,976 to Spillman Technologies for equipment and installation of computers to bring the Hammond Police Department into the E-911 database of police activity.